By Chrissy Khachane, Head of Lower School
Summer is a great time for families to vacation, for students to attend enriching camps of all varieties, and for an overall break from the hectic routine of the school year. Summer is also a time where students can slip in their reading progress to regress as much as three months from when they left the classroom. In order to continue reading development, I want to offer a few suggestions that can be utilized at home or on vacation.
Beginning with our youngest readers (those still learning to read), continued daily exposure to print is essential to skill building. Summer allows the opportunity for your child to spend time routinely reading independently. One suggestion is to set aside a time for the whole family to read quietly. Children are more likely to be interested in reading quietly when they see other family members enjoying this relaxing activity. Setting aside time before bed for quiet reading or writing is also a nice way to get children into a regular routine.
Here are five specific strategies you can encourage your child to use when reading difficult words:
Look at the picture and the first letter of the challenging word to see if something in the picture helps make a connection.
Keep your finger on the challenging word and read on to the end of the sentence to look for clues that may tell you what the word is.
Think of a word that starts with the same first letter as the challenging word that might make sense in the sentence.
Cover up part of the word and sound it out with the letter sounds that you do know.
Look for smaller words and familiar sounds in a word. For example: in the word "shout" you can see the small word “out” and you know that s and h work together to make the sh sound.
Some comprehension strategies for your younger reader that you could use include:
If your book has a lot of pictures you may want to take a picture walk—before reading the words look at the pictures on each page and try to tell the story by the clues in the pictures. It’s often fun to leave the last few pages as a surprise!
Making a personal connection to the text—think about how you can personally relate to the story, characters, setting, situation, etc.
Activate your background knowledge—think about what you already know about the topic.
As you are reading, stop and think: Does what I am reading make sense to me?
Make predictions about what you think will happen in the story. As you read, think about and add to the predictions that you made as you learn more from the text.
Once your son or daughter transitions from 'learning to read' into 'reading to learn,' the emphasis on comprehension strategies increases. This is not to say that younger students shouldn’t be encouraged to predict or self-monitor, but at this point guiding your child to become a critical thinker as he/she reads is important.
Reading comprehension strategies are tools that are used to help determine the meaning of what is being read. Comprehension strategies include asking questions, visualization (or creating a mental movie), identifying essential information (i.e. main idea), retelling, predicting, and many others. The nature of most daily assignments during the school year aids in developing many of these skills; however, the approach many students have to completing their summer reading (mainly reading all required texts at the very beginning or very end of the vacation) leads to an unstructured and less guided experiences in terms of developing literacy skills.
What can I do as a parent to guide my son/daughter through their summer reading in a meaningful way? Here are a few ideas for how you, as a parent, can help your child continue to grow into a meaningful reader.
- Encourage your child to make predictions as they read. This can be done verbally through discussion or in a response journal. Encourage your son/daughter to answer questions such as, “What do I think is going to happen next and what details from the story have led me to this conclusion?”
- Questions...Questions...Questions. Asking questions helps develop inferential reasoning abilities (especially in younger and middle school readers). To foster inferential thinking, ask your son/daughter questions such as, “Why do you think ______ feels ______ at this point in the story?”
- Vocabulary Development. No reader can comprehend what he or she is reading if they do not know the meaning of the words on the page; however, stopping every time you come across an unfamiliar word to use a dictionary is not necessarily a meaningful approach. Using context clues (finding the meaning using the surrounding words) is one means of identifying the meaning of a word, or simply underlining to look up later (at the end of the chapter...not the end of the book).
- Retelling is a skill. Retelling is the ability to put the story in your own words, restating the ideas in the order in which they happened in the story, including all the most important events and ideas.
I hope everyone is enjoying a wonderful summer, full of enriching experiences and many moments lost in adventure and enticing stories of all kinds!